She Was…

Posted on October 19, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

She was the strongest woman I’ve ever known. She was a mother, a daughter, a wife, a sister, an aunt, and a friend. She was an awesome, loving grandmother. She was the victim of breast cancer.

She was diagnosed eight years before cancer claimed her life. She died the day after my youngest daughter’s first birthday in 1995. Here’s her story and why it should matter to you.

Her mother died at the age of 54, the victim of ovarian and uterine cancer. Little known about genetics (or at least talked about),  we didn’t know what we know now. That is, female hormonal cancer is hereditary and it affects all female organs and tissues. Meaning, cancer of the ovaries in one member of the family could present itself as breast cancer in another.

She beat it, or so we thought. We celebrated five years together. We talked, we loved, we thanked every thing and being for that gift. We cried together and clung to each other. We learned the meaning of love.

When we sat by her bed, waiting for and dreading the last moment we would ever be with her loving soul, she talked, not of profound things that she wanted us to remember. No, she’d told us those things throughout our lives — things like “the helping hand you’re looking for is at the end of your own arm,” and “Don’t let people walk on you – those footprints aren’t easy to erase,” and “When you’re a mom, you’ll know that sometimes you have to open your arms and close your mouth. Usually, that’s when your kids are at their worst.”

No, the things my mom talked about were entirely different, but I cling to them as if they were my lifeline. They are my eternal connection to her. Mom talked about three nurses at the foot of her bed. They never talked, just watched her. While they didn’t speak, they did move, they came and went out of her room, sometimes stopping for hours, sometime just for a moment before they went out the window and danced on the river. She wondered why they danced on the river so much, there wasn’t any ice but it was cold outside. She wondered why they didn’t talk to her. She wondered why they never went home.

A friendly, down to earth woman, mom always spoke to others, even if she didn’t know them. She was a believer in common sense and reality, not dreams or outlandish scenarios like nurses dancing on water. In fact, she spent her last years driving home the importance of breast exams, mammograms, and “don’t ever let them talk you into keeping a lump – get rid of it now! Life is too short to mess around.” She always said that her life woudn’t be in vain if it served her daughters, granddaughters, and sisters by making them more diligent and aware of their potential risk of inheriting cancer.

She never wore pink, but she was a spokesperson for pink.

She was a fighter who gave all but left so much behind, including the will to fight.

She was Peggy Duggins, my mom.

She was a victim of breast cancer.  She was 54 years old.

She watched angels dance on the water, now she dances with them.

She was somebody. She was everybody. She was everything to me.

She was somebody who cared – about you and about me.  She was my mom and she is the reason I support breast cancer awareness month.


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